As editors we are often asked by published and unpublished authors whether participating, placing in and winning writing contests makes an impact with us or not. My personal point of view is that they do.
While you can submit to Harlequin series at any time, of course, coming to an editor’s attention through this particular channel does make the editor realize that the person’s peers (and fellow romance readers) have seen the merit in this work and so passed it on through preliminary stages.
I’ve recently completed judging the finalists’ entries for an RWA chapter’s writing contest. It was a diverse mix of five very different voices and stories, especially for the series romance category. Some fine writing, and unique twists on tried and true themes were present. And much appreciated by this editor!
I imagine authors see contests from both sides, in terms of entering (costs, registration, etc.) and any rewards…?