Here are my top ten tips. They are not any particular order.
1. Write (in some fashion) everyday. This does not mean pen to paper or fingers to keyboard everyday but it does mean write stories in your head. Think about what projects you have going on. Rethink how to write a current story arc. Figure out where you are going next. And, yes, do write. I would say you should be writing, physically, more than 60% of the time but thinking about your writing is all part of it.
2. Elements of Style is your friend. One of the smallest and most comprehensive technical writing books out there. If you have a question about the technical aspect of writing, this book probably has the answer for it.
3. Submit your stories. If you write and you want to be published, you must submit your writing to calls for submissions. You must be willing and able to accept both rejection and acceptance. You must put yourself (and your ego) out there. If you do not, you are telling the editor "No." for them. That's not fair to anyone.
4. Everyone needs an editor. The editor is not the enemy. The editor's job is to make you, the author, look that much better. The relationship between an editor and an author is not always comfortable but it is to the author's benefit. The editor is the person who needs to pick out the mistakes and gives you a chance to fix them before a reviewer shreds your work to pieces.
5. Rejections are not all bad. Rejections happen to everyone. Every author out there has been rejected. I mean EVERY AUTHOR without exception. An author who has not been rejected is an author who has not submitted his work around. Rejections prove that you are part of the industry. They prove people have looked at your work. The more personal the rejection, the better it is. Some have helpful hints. Some state that they liked what they read but it wasn't what they wanted. Rejections help you in the future.
6. Read your contracts and make sure you get paid whether or not the story is published. As a professional author, I cannot stress this enough. The publishing industry is a fickle thing. Be careful of contracts that only pay you after publication. Contracts that pay after acceptance are much better for you. I have lost out because my accepted story was never actually published. Thus, I was never actually paid for the work that I did.
7. Have professional author business cards on hand at all times. Professional business cards are the handiest networking tool you can have. Make sure your email address is something like "ABlastname@yahoo.com" rather than "Fun4UandU@yahoo.com" – be professional. Have your name, your email address, your phone number and something like "Author" or "Freelance Author" or "Freelance Author & Technical Writer" on it. That way, when people look at it a week later, they know why they have the business card.
8. Don't be afraid to strike up conversations with others in the industry. If you are at an event like a convention or a writer's meeting, don't be afraid to say "Hello." These sorts of events are for people who don't know each other to meet up and possibly make a professional connection. Find out about them and what they do. Find out if they are looking for anything in particular. Offer your talents if it seems applicable.
9. Be professional at all times. This means a lot of things. Do be polite. Do have good hygiene. Do be aware of who people are talking to. Do be aware of body language. Don't interrupt someone's sit-down meal. Do chat if it is a cocktail party. Don't get drunk at a business social.
If you are dealing with someone in email or IM, use correct grammar, capitalization and punctuation. If you are speaking to someone on the phone, don't interrupt and do answer the questions asked. Common courtesy and common sense.
10. Believe in yourself. If you don't believe in yourself and your talent, no one else will either. The publishing industry is a heartbreaking business. It is full of pitfalls and traps. It is dangerous to the mind, heart and ego. You must believe in yourself or you will fail before you begin.
Finally, thank you to xjenavivex for inviting me to be her first interviewee for the "In Depth Questions for Working Author" series. I've had a blast. I hope everyone else has, too.