Animating creative selves

Pen names as property in the careers of Canadian and American romance writers

by JESSICA TAYLOR

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Most romance writers in Canada and the United States in the first decade of the 21st century wrote under at least one, and as many as three or four, pen names. In doing so, they typified the ideal of a middle-class worker who is both a business and a brand. Yet writers went beyond the singular branded self to develop multiple brand names. Prompted by publishers, writers developed pen names as forms of property that, like brands, could be used to mediate between producer and consumer. These newly developed properties were created according to specifications that reflected the gendered and racialized structure of mass-market publishing. This process of property creation and animation was imagined to create value for writers and publishers in an uncertain, recession-era economy.