Gaming is Poor Pay Clean Out of Cash simply because its a small hobby. When a hot selling supplement for a well known game (GURPS Spacehips 4 say) is 600 or so units in PDF, the money just isn't there. Sure a few freelancers might pick up a few bucks or even make a living but it can't support a real industry.
That anyone gets paid anything is almost a surprise to me. The amount of free and legal games (not to mention pirated ones) these days is astonishing. The Free RPG Blog has so many listed that there is no way anyone could play even the best of them. I can find something for any genre I can think of .
For those with less ethics and access to a printer, well ..I need say no more.
If we as gamers would like an industry as vs a hobby it falls on us to increase the buyer pool.
World of Warcraft which is broadly similar to an RPG has nearly 12 million players and Second Life has at least 18 million accounts.
If say 10% of those numbers were added to the buyer base, we would see the hobby become 3 million buyers and popular games could have 300,000 print runs -- thats real money -- such a hypothetical company could make (in a lower cost distribution system than the three tiered one we have now with ten $40 books a year) a gross income of 60 million ! -- this is about 20x larger than SJ games and could support probably a hundred decently paid employees.
The problem here is not getting people to roleplay, many people enjoy this activity or something like it . The problem is getting them to make the sacrifices needed to meet face to face and then getting them to buy stuff .
Even without the distractions of the Internet its a daunting task. The US culture is not very sociable as Robert Putnam notes in Bowling Alone.
an example from his web page
Declining Social Capital: Trends over the last 25 years
Attending Club Meetings 58% drop
Family dinners 43% drop
Having friends over 35% drop
And its not a gamer thing, other social hobbies are having the same problems.
If we can rebuild social capital, rebuild the economies of the world and tap off a fraction of the likely market and then turn them into buyers we can actually make real money.
Like I said daunting.