Glynis mentioned in the comments on Monday's post that some contests are closed - only open certain country's writers. That might have to do with local and international laws, especially for those offering the prize of a publishing contract.
Some contests are 100% gimmicks and solely had to raise income. But don't discount a contest just because there is a fee. Advertising the contest is a huge expense in some cases. Sometimes judges are compensated for their time. There are expenses beyond the prize money, so I don't mind a reasonable fee.
The judges for my short story contest have nothing to gain for donating their time, it is just one of those relationship things that develops. I'm blessed with many good industry contacts.
Some contests are prestigious to win. Certainly those that provide judges' feedback are useful - often for an additional fee. They give a snapshot of what industry pros think of the submission at that moment in time.
However, keep in mind that some people have submitted the same [rejected] ms to an agent at a later date with no significant changes and it was "loved" the second time around. This industry is subjective. It is also a lot of educated guessing.
I think there are several reasons to enter writing contests. The free contests, of which there aren't very many, are budget friendly - a no brainer. It is important to set a budget on what will be spent for contests. There are contests with prestigious names that are a real boost to a writing career, if won. Usually those cost more than some of the others. I like those that give out the judges' comments - good, bad, and ugly. If you don't win, at least you have feedback from the process. Also, you know your work was read.
I'm suspect of contests with anthologies, publishing contracts, and a bunch of services that I wouldn't buy, so don't really want to win.
Take the time to research who can enter. Some contests have geographic boundaries, some the publisher has to submit the work while others the author has to enter.
At any rate, thank you to everyone who entered this contest. I am delighted with the response since this is the first time to host a contest and it certainly isn't a prestigious one. But I hope that the ease made it a little less stressful for those who were entering their first contest.
Keep in mind that the world doesn't end if you don't win. Regardless of what anyone thinks of your writing, you have to keep the faith, continue to hone your skills, and follow your dream.