- This story was the best of what was entered.
- This story escaped getting a preliminary judge that might have tanked something else that was better.
There have been times that I, along with other agents, have judged contests where the final round manuscripts were only earning points no higher than a 70%. As a final round judge, we have to decide who was the best from that group. Honestly, if 70% is the best you have, that doesn't say much.
Contest wins don't necessarily sway us one way or another and it certainly is not going to be a factor for us to buy the project.
The second portion of your question is the one that sort of concerns me
...or is this just what the book company does so that they will get your business and pay them to publish your book. From your description, I would really start to question the merit of the competition. Entering something in a contest run by a publisher that would have a reputation of doing what you describe seems to me as a silly move by an author. Obviously, I would have to know more of the details, but from what you said, it sounds like this is simply a vanity press that is drumming up business. I would hope that after you win a contest such as this, you aren't obligated to publish your story with them. We have to remember several things about contests:
- contests are generally fund raisers for chapters.
- writers enter contests in the hope to get quality feedback.
- writers enter contests in the hope that it will get to an editor or agent that might request the project.
- the quality of a contest is always dependent on the quality of the preliminary judges and their knowledge of the genre.
- the quality of a contest is always dependent on a judging criteria that is clear and very objective while not favoring one genre over another.
Hope this helps!