In the United States, this has been mentioned as publishers with annual turnover of under $50 million, or those that publish on average 10 or fewer titles per year;
Other terms for small press, sometimes distinguished from each other and sometimes used interchangeably, are small publishers, independent publishers, or indie presses.
Independent publishers (as defined above) made up about half of the market share of the book publishing industry in the US in 2007. The majority of small presses are independent or indie publishers, meaning that they are separate from the handful of major publishing house conglomerates, such as Random House or Hachette.
Since the profit margins for small presses can be narrow, many are driven by other motives, including the desire to help disseminate literature with only a small likely market. Many presses are also associated with crowdfunding efforts that help connect authors with readers. Small presses tend to fill the niches that larger publishers neglect. They can focus on regional titles, narrow specializations and niche genres. They can also make up for commercial clout by creating a reputation for academic knowledge, vigorously pursuing prestigious literature prizes and spending more effort nurturing the careers of new authors. At its most minimal, small press production consists of chapbooks. This role can now be taken on by desktop publishing and Web sites. This still leaves a continuum of small press publishing: from specialist periodicals, short runs or print-to-order of low-demand books, to fine art books and limited editions of collectors' items printed to high standards.
There is now also a distinction made between small presses and micro-presses. A micro-press can be defined as a publisher that produces chapbooks and other small books on a very small scale (e.g. 50 copies of one book per year). It can also be defined in terms of revenue. Micro-presses often are run as a hobby or part-time job because of their low profits. They may not produce enough profit to support their owners.
In Canada, these are considered small press publishers but the standard small press book run is accepted at 300 copies of a chapbook and 500 or more copies of a spine-bound book. In doing this, small press publishers are eligible for grants from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council.
Not to be confused
Small presses should not be confused with self-publishing presses (sometimes called "vanity presses"). Self-publishing or subsidy presses usually require payment by authors, or a minimum purchase of copies. By comparison, small presses make their profits by selling books to consumers, rather than selling services to authors or selling a small number of copies to the author's friends.
Small presses should not be confused with printers. Small presses are publishers, which means that they engage in a book selection process, along with editing, marketing and distribution. Small presses also enter into a contract with the author, often paying royalties for being allowed to sell the book. Publishers own the copies they have printed, but usually do not own the copyright to the book itself. In contrast, printers merely print a book, and sometimes offer limited distribution if they are a POD printing press. Printers have a very low selectivity. They will accept nearly anyone who can pay the cost of printing. They rarely offer editing or marketing. Printers do not own the copies that are printed, and they do not pay royalties.
Book packagers combine aspects of small presses and printers, but they are technically neither small presses nor printers.