Graeme Reynolds, a UK-based author of horror novels, says he was unable to sell one of his bestselling books on Amazon’s Kindle library because his manuscript contained too many hyphens.
In a blog post, Reynolds says Amazon’s automated spell check returned “over 100 words in the 90,000 word novel [that] contained that dreaded little line.”
In other words, Amazon’s software rejected Reynolds’ book since 0.11% of all words contained hyphens.
Mind you, Reynolds’ book in question, titled “High Moor 2: Moonstruck,” has been out for about 18 months, and Amazon has done much of the selling. Reynolds says he “spent well over £1000 on getting that book edited, using the best editors I could find.”
“I was more than happy with the product, so was bemused by this email,” he says.
Amazon’s letter to Reynolds stated the number of hyphens “significantly impacts the readability of your book” and therefore “we have suppressed the book because of the combined impact to customers.”
“I couldn’t believe what I was reading,” Reynolds says on his blog. “This had to be a wind-up. Surely. An automated mistake, generated because some f—–g clueless moron had a little moan over something they didn’t understand.”
After Reynolds responded to the initial email, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing unit responded once more and re-emphasised that “we have removed your title from sale,” asking the author to correct the hyphenated words and “republish your book and make it available for sale.”
Reynolds is outraged at what he calls “style enforcement by automation.”
In some respects I have to applaud Amazon for at least trying to address the sea of utter fucking garbage that is available on Kindle. Do they need to do something about the quality of the ebooks on their device? Oh yes. Absolutely no question about it. However I really would have to question whether their 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 of Nanowrimo 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.
We’ve reached out to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing division to determine all the various factors that might merit a rejection through its automated system, and specifically, the minimum percentage of hyphens one can have in a novel for it to be approved. We’ll update this story when we hear back.
At first, Reynolds admitted he “can’t afford to have one of my top selling titles out of circulation, and so I will, reluctantly, start preparing a version of the book with all the hyphens removed.”
But in an update on Monday afternoon, Reynolds says, “the book is now back on sale. Common sense seems to have prevailed.”
Read Reynolds’ full blog post about the incident here.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.