Many years ago, I considered writing an article bemoaning the fact that so many small press magazines want writers to contribute their work for little or no compensation. What, I asked, is the sense in writing just to see your name in print? The fact that a writer is interested in genre writing (science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, speculative) doesn't mean payment should be only a contributor's copy. I know I'm not alone in my frustration with this policy; I've seen similar comments written by other writers. While I recognize the value of getting a few clips, clips don't pay for a writer's time, let alone stamps .
While, like any writer, I love to see payment for my work, I also love writing fantasy. I finally decided the professional fantasy markets were few and far between, and my chances of seeing publication with them, probably nil. I then researched the small presses specializing in fantasy and started to submit to those who at least offered a token payment.
Through this process, I have learned a great deal on how to tighten my writing and produce better quality stories. While small press publishers may not offer much in the way of money, the editors (who oftentimes were also the publishers) are often willing to offer constructive criticism.
While writers are professionals and should be paid as such, if you're new or starting in a new genre, there are advantages to working with the small presses. While you may not get a large paycheck for your manuscript, you may get valuable feedback. Consider it a barter system. New writers get critiques of their work, editors get better stories for their magazines. Of course, not all small press editors have the time or inclination to give detailed reasons for their rejections, but chances are higher you may receive a personal note from a small press editor.