A lot of people are rising into high dudgeon these days about the fact that most writers don't get paid for what they write. While this is partly related to the still-existing hysteria about the supposed nefarious effects of the internet (too many amateurs writing for fun), it nevertheless extends as well to fiction writers who seem to have just realized that, except for a few prominent novelists who have managed a degree of financial success, writers of "serious" fiction make little or no money at all from their writing.
Various explanations are given for this situation, ranging from the willingness of editors and publishers to ruthlessly exploit the writers they publish to the general lack of interest among American readers (in their already small numbers) in this kind of fiction.
But the best explanation is much simpler and is a direct result of the very "professionalization" of writing that has taken place over the last 50 years or so. This professionalizaton has manifested itself in the proliferation of creative writing programs that has attached a certain kind of "training" to the writing of fiction and poetry and thus a degree of professional prestige for the graduates of these programs. This sort of "prestige" has extended itself to the thousands of literary magazines that have come into existence during this period (some only to disappear after a short period of time) and that have become the primary mode of publication for the writers emerging from the programs. Mere publication in one of these magazines is often necessarily the ambition of such writers, which in turn becomes a form of certification to teach in a creative writing program. Since the latter is the real goal of graduating from a creative writing program, literary magazines don't need to pay the writers who appear in their pages. So of course they don't. Writers must be content with the salaries they earn as duly qualified participants in creative writing as an academic discipline.
The real question thus becomes not why writers aren't paid but whether we should consider the sheer increase in the number of writers we now have, as well as the increase in the amount of writing available to us, some of which is unquestionably good (the worst of which is just generally mediocre), to be worth the effective withdrawal of serious literary writing from the capitalist marketplace--which of course inevitably results in frustration for many writers who believe their labors should receive some recognition in this marketplace. How important is it for writers to be validated by capitalism and what Adorno called its "exchange value"?