Amazon is no stranger to independent publishing drama. But when it pulled books in the past, it at least purported to have some sort of legitimate reason. In the case of High Moor 2: Moonstruck (the story of one werewolf gang's quest to keep its existence hidden and the extreme lengths to which it goes to protect its deadly secret) that reason appears to be... hyphens.
According to author Graeme Reynolds, Amazon removed High Moor 2 from its digital shelves because of the novel's 90,000 total words, 100 were hyphenated. Apparently that is too many.
A solid 18 months and 123 (largely positive!) reviews after the book's initial release, Reynolds claims to have received an email from Amazon that claims his excessive use of itty bitty dashes "significantly impacts the readability of [his] book". When Reynolds emailed Amazon back to express his bewilderment at the situation, Amazon explained that he was free to republish his novel "once he corrected the hyphenated words".
Which, as Reynolds is quick to point out on his blog, is not totally condemnable on Amazon's part. After all, Kindle's current selection is flooded by an overwhelming number of ebooks that are, for lack of a better word, nonsensical bullshit.
Which is not to say that there is anything wrong with those that did enjoy the paranormal shapeshifter romance novel Yeti! Were?, for example. But while a total lack of quality control is inevitably bad for business, the seemingly automated sort Amazon is doing is a whole other beast (werewolf, presumably) altogether. As Reynolds explains:
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... than waging war on a professionally edited novel that had the gall to use hyphens to join words together.
If I was a suspicious sort, I may even wonder if this had anything to do with the fact that I unchecked the "automatically renew this book's enrolment in Kindle Select" tick box a few days earlier.
While the latter theory does venture a bit into tinfoil hat territory, the supposed timing is curious. Amazon certainly hasn't been afraid to get its hands dirty in the past. Largely due to the buzz Reynolds managed to generate, though, Amazon finally has put his book back up for sale. But it's hard not to wonder how many others have been affected by what appears to be Amazon's automatic quality control.
This case, at least, has a happy ending. And Reynolds' ordeal at least gave us reviews like these:
13 years ago, I was in a major car accident that killed my friend and left me in ICU for several days. I've struggled with insomnia, chronic back pain, and severe hyphen intolerance since that summer. Life was bleak. Is it even worth living if I have to share the world with authors who use hyphens? When I learned that Amazon was finally enforcing hyphenic genocide, it was like the clouds finally parted to reveal that the sun was still shining. I look forward to reading the corrected versions of The Tell-Tale Heart, The Demon-Haunted World, and Heart-Shaped Box, among other affronts to the sovereignty of my mind space.