Sigh...yet another contest for unpublished novelists has been announced. Lest you think I am recommending this contest, I am not. I'm cautioning you about this contest and all contests that charge reading fees.
The very wonderful short story writer Ron Carlson (and contest judge) said that contests do one thing: They get you out of bed.
But they do little else. Because they get you and every other aspiring writer out of bed to write, the competition is fierce. So you send off your story or your chapters with your fee and you wait and hope and wait.
Many contests don't even have to award the prize if the readers feel that no one qualifies.
Listen, it's hard to publish fiction, but it's still possible. Look at all the novels coming out, all the short stories. You do need a combo of great writing and sheer good luck. Doesn't hurt if you have some great publication credits or a famous writer who knows and loves you.
But contests, they make you feel like something is happening when nothing necessarily is.
If you insist on submitting to contests, though, search out the good ones. Look on the acknowledgment pages of novels for the names of contests that the author is thanking. And then make sure your story or novel exerpt (or entire novel) is stellar--as stellar as you can possibly make it. Those first paragraphs/pages mean so much.