Graeme Reynolds’s novel High Moor 2: Moonstruck was withdrawn when the site decided 100 hyphenated words in 90,000 ‘impacted the readability’ of the book
What is your favourite form of punctuation? Mine is the semicolon. It wouldn’t be my desert island choice – that’d have to be something more boringly prosaic, such as the full stop. But a nice semicolon, properly used, is delicious.
I ask because I am almost too tickled to type at the discovery that an author, one Graeme Reynolds, found his novel withdrawn from Amazon because of his excessive use of the hyphen. Reynolds has written about his inexplicable experience on his blog, but in summary: he released his werewolf novel, High Moor 2: Moonstruck, last March, after paying over £1,000 for professional editing. It’s had over 100 almost entirely positive reviews on Amazon.
Then, on 12 December, Reynolds got an email from the internet retailer, which had apparently received a complaint from a reader “about the fact that some of the words in the book were hyphenated” (let’s not even wonder about who on earth would go to the trouble of emailing Amazon about this).
“When they ran an automated spell check against the manuscript they found that over 100 words in the 90,000-word novel contained that dreaded little line,” he says. “This, apparently ‘significantly impacts the readability of your book’ and, as a result, ‘We have suppressed the book because of the combined impact to customers.’”
Reynolds complained, pointing out “that the use of a hyphen to join two words together was perfectly valid in the English language”, and says he was told by Amazon: “As quality issues with your book negatively affect the reading experience, we have removed your title from sale until these issues are corrected … Once you correct hyphenated words, please republish your book and make it available for sale.”
As Reynolds writes, less acronymically, WTAF.
He gives Amazon credit for “at least trying to address … the quality of the ebooks on their device”, but suggests the team’s time “would be better spent looking at the 10-page automatically generated ‘books’ that are flooding the Kindle store to game the Kindle Unlimited algorithms, or the impending tidal wave ofNaNoWriMo first drafts that are about to hit us, than waging war on a professionally edited novel that had the gall to use hyphens to join words together.”
and kidney shut down and the doctors said I would need to absorb as many non hyphenated publications as possible if I were to have a chance to survive.”
“I ran into a rogue hyphen once out on a moor, ironically enough, and it beat me up so badly I had blood in my urine for months,” adds another poster. The internet, ladies and gentlemen: sometimes it’s just, well, brilliant.