On the morning of January 19, one week after the earthquake in Haiti, indie author Greg McQueen found himself feeling helpless.
From his home in Denmark, the U.K. transplant, like millions across the globe, was wracked with grief as he watched the tragedy unfold in Haiti. He wanted to help.
Then inspiration struck. In span of a few hours, starting with a video he entitled, "Dear Twitterverse," McQueen conceived of a book project titled, "100 Stories for Haiti," in which he'd call upon authors around the globe to contribute stories of 1,000 words or less for an anthology to benefit Haiti.
Within a couple days, he assembled a global team of volunteer publishers, editors and authors to assemble the book. Within a couple weeks, he and his editors selected 100 stories contributed by authors in 10 different countries.
Today, a mere six weeks and two days after inspiration struck, the book is available for purchase in both ebook and print book formats.
The ebook version can be purchased at the 100 Stories For Haiti page at Smashwords, where the reader can choose what they want to pay for it. They can get the book for free, or they can pay as much as they want. All proceeds, minus the credit card fee charged by PayPal, will go directly to Red Cross disaster relief.
The print version is available from Bridge House Publishing in the U.K. for the price of £11.99 plus shipping fee.
This isn't the first time indie authors have rallied together to make a difference. Back in September, Smashwords author Ed Patterson organized Operation Ebook Drop, a non-profit initiative that allows indie authors to donate free ebooks to coalition troops and international peace keepers. The initiative has supplied thousands of ebooks to troops.
The 100 Stories for Haiti project also provides a hint, I think, of what the future of book publishing might look like.
Powerful free online publishing tools, combined with the instant community formation enabled by Twitter and Facebook -- allow virtual publishers to spontaneously emerge, collaborate, edit and publish in minutes or days.
Contrast this with the typical 12-18 months most big publishers require to publish a finished book after they acquire it.