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I Have an Awesome Idea for Epilogues

[poll id="100"]

File this under what I would do if I ran publishing. There are quite a few books that are decent or even good where the epilogues drive me absolutely batty. It’s as if the author isn’t quite sure we readers have been sold on how awesome the happy ever after is going to be. My own awesome idea is that we no longer include epilogues in the books themselves. Instead, the publishers include a note that says the author has written a special epilogue and it is available at the author’s site. This makes readers who are interested, go to the author’s site where they can read about all her other awesome books in addition to reading the epilogue. For those readers who find epilogues generally stomach turning, we don’t have to read them. Additionally, it save the publishers money on printing costs. It’s a win all the way around.

And, no, if the epilogue is in the book, I cannot skip it because I feel like something important must be in there for it to be included in the book. 9.99999999 times out of 10, though, the epilogue is so sickeningly sweet that I throw up a little in my mouth.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

45 Comments

  1. stephanie feagan
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 00:43:41

    Jane-
    Word.

    Stef

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  2. Folklore Fanatic
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 01:04:18

    Why, yes. You hated Deathly Hollows too?

    ;)

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  3. Folklore Fanatic
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 01:06:59

    should be —> Hallows.

    Although I still feel like that’s robbing All Hallows’ Eve or something. But anyway, yeah. If it’s so vital to the story, make it another chapter or a subchapter.

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  4. Sparky
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 05:00:47

    Incredible idea. I hate epilogues – if you’re going to write a sequel write a sequel – don’t write some random summary. I much prefer to leave the afterwards to the imagination of the reader or turn it into a proper story in and of itself.

    Most epilogues tend to be rather simplistic and horribly, sickeningly sweet to gag worthy proportions. I’m amazed how even the most gritty, enthralling book can produce an ending that would make a Disney princess vomit, leave her castle in disgust and become a high priced madam in sheer protest

    And course you can’t skip it if it’s in the book. If there are pages left they HAVE TO BE READ or they will stalk you during the night while you sleep. It is known.

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  5. Francois
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 05:46:00

    Just get rid of the things altogether.

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  6. Sandy (strlady)
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 05:57:31

    Great promotional ideas but you would be surprised at how many people live without the use of computers. Making the epilogue be exclusive to those who can access the author’s website is a tad unfair to those who really love the whole “let me peak at the future for a wrap up” but are not computer literate.

    It’s like giving a free concert but you have no wheels to get you there.

    I say keep it in the book and if you don’t want to read it, skip it.

    ~S

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  7. B
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 06:54:11

    I did figure on putting a warning in the novel I recently finished. You know:

    Warning! Gooey epilogue at end of book! Read at your own risk!

    But I’d be willing to put it on the internet instead if it came to it. The epilogue was a piece of self-indulgence that I really wanted to do and as such, if I was advised to leave it as a ‘deleted scene’, I would.

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  8. Kimber An
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 07:42:01

    Yes, I gag too, ninety-nine percent of the time over prologues and epilogues. If the words are important enough to be in the book, why not make them part of the first and last chapters? And a lot of time they’re tacked on to patch up a poorly written story. However, there are exceptions. I can only remember one – MASTER OF VERONA by David Blixt. It’s a Historical I reviewed at Enduring Romance last year. Absolutely amazing.

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  9. (Jān)
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 08:10:06

    I think a book as presented to the public should be complete as the writer sees it. If a writer feels an epilogue is needed to complete the story, then it should be included within all editions.

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  10. Mireya
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 08:13:49

    I like the saccharine sweet epilogues. *shrug*

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  11. Mireya
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 08:14:55

    Sorry, hit the send button too quick and it’s not allowing me to edit. So adding: I like them IN the book.

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  12. MoJo
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 08:29:23

    I’ll cop to being an epilogue fan, too.

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  13. BevQB
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 08:34:47

    NONONO! I LOVE epilogues! In fact, I feel kind of cheated if a book doesn’t have one, particularly Romance books.

    Emma Holly has a downloadable epilogue to Fairyville, And Then There Were Four, available from Amazon for $.49. And, yes, I DID download it. But what bugs my anal retentive self is that I now have an “incomplete” trade size print book. Incomplete (to me) because its epilogue is in electronic format instead of in print at the back of the book where it should be.

    So, nope, keep ‘em at the end of the books where they belong. You epilogue haters are just gonna have to learn a little self control and skip over them! ;-p

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  14. JulieLeto
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 08:38:35

    I like epilogues. I’ve even written a few. Very few. Most of my books don’t need them. But when an author ends a book in such a way that the only means to truly finish a story is to jump forward in time six months to a year, they don’t have any option but write an epilogue. I don’t think all of them are saccharine sweet, either, though some category lines do that more as an editorial requirement than an author’s choice. For all the readers who hate seeing the heroine giving birth or playing with her four children, there are probably ten readers who adore this. Whether or not you call it “Epilogue” or “Chapter 32″ doesn’t make any difference, does it? But the biggest need for an epilogue comes with a huge passage of time.

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  15. Cathy
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 08:52:05

    I have mixed feelings about epilogues. Sometimes good, sometimes not so much. I’d be really irritated, though, if I was told at the end of the book that there was more, but I’d have to go elsewhere to find out what happens. I don’t generally read in front of the computer, and what if I liked the epilogue? Now I have an incomplete version of the story. I’d rather keep them in the book, where I can just ignore them if I need to.

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  16. Brooke
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 08:58:06

    I’m a fan as well. More so if the book is a stand alone ( whihc is usually when you see them anyhoo).

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  17. KCfla
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 09:16:57

    I like the epilogues, if they exist, to be IN the book.

    I have a mother who reads almost as much as I do. She does not own a computer ( hates them like the plague!) and would be “cheated” if authors only put them online to read. As it is I’m the one who goes online if she asks when the next book of series is due out. She will NOT have one of those *things* in her house LOL!

    Not everyone is online. So I think keeping them in the books, at least for now, is a necessity

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  18. JessicaMcG
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 09:21:02

    I love epilogues! It allows a story I’ve enjoyed to last a little bit longer. I would be fine with them being on the author’s site, but am just as happy with them in the book.

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  19. Shannon Stacey
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 09:23:04

    I’m a total sucker for the Christmas wedding epilogue. I even wrote one.

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  20. RStewie
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 09:27:27

    Let’s start a movement instead to make them relevant and realistic.

    IN the book.

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  21. Val Kovalin
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 09:30:51

    This is a tough poll to vote in! I’ve almost never run across an epilogue I’ve liked. I do often feel annoyed when I’ve read one (and I always read them because, you know, what if there’s something important in it? And then it turns out to be something cloying like HP & the Deathly Hallows.

    But if the author thinks it should be written, it should be put in the book. It would be even more annoying for the fans who want it to have to go online. Which is why I voted, “No, they belong in the book.”

    I did get a big chortle out of this comment:

    I'm amazed how even the most gritty, enthralling book can produce an ending that would make a Disney princess vomit, leave her castle in disgust and become a high priced madam in sheer protest

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  22. Kelly C
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 09:32:46

    A – No, they belong in the book

    2 – Haven’t some authors already taken to doing the online epilogue/ extended version thing? However, I believe it is at a cost, above and beyond the price of a/the book that was already paid for. @@

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  23. Kalen Hughes
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 10:16:57

    I like ‘em in the book, but I also like them to do more than show off the almost inevitable baby. I love it when authors manage to tie up one last dangling string in the epilogue AND show me a future glimpse of the HEA in action.

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  24. Kathleen MacIver
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 10:33:21

    Oh gosh. I agree that a lot of them are like that… or else they’re just prologues for the next book in the series.

    But… (You knew there had to be one.) Now I want to know if you’d hate mine! I love it… but then, I’m sure all writers do who include them. Does it make a difference if it is the last “piece” in a circle which began in the Prologue? And if it also answers a (minor) question that is brought up in the book? Please say yes!

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  25. Janine
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 10:55:54

    I wish there was a third option with this poll. Many epilogues feel too sweet and some seem superfluous to me, but there are some that I think are absolutely necessary to the story. I can’t imagine Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart without its epilogue, in which we find out what happened with Cara’s sister. I agree with Julie Leto that some stories require the author to skip forward in time in order to resolve the conflicts they have set up.

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  26. Jayne
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 11:20:31

    Kalen, your epilogue is one of the few that I think I’d howl if I’d missed it. It wasn’t gooey, it wasn’t nonsense, it wasn’t junk and it did tell us more about the main characters besides how many babies they’d had.

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  27. Phyllis
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 13:15:37

    I don’t like epilogues, but if they’re going to be written, they need to be in the book. If I get a book out of the library that’s 5 or 10 years old (sort of loose in the binding, old paperback, dog eared, etc), I’m not going to be searching the author’s website for the epilogue, just in case that author still has the same website or is still publishing or gives a rat’s bupkus if I ever see the epilogue, or whatever.

    I just finished a Laurens novel from the Bastion series and it had the obligatory hearts and flowers wedding epilogue which led into a teaser for the next novel in the series. It was totally useless as part of the story, but I guess that as marketing for the rest of the series, it was effective.

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  28. Kalen Hughes
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 13:59:55

    Kalen, your epilogue is one of the few that I think I'd howl if I'd missed it. It wasn't gooey, it wasn't nonsense, it wasn't junk and it did tell us more about the main characters besides how many babies they'd had.

    :::Blush::: Thanks.

    I *heart* the epilogue of LORD SIN. I don’t think the epilogue of LORD SCANDAL is quite as strong, as I didn’t have anything quite as important to wrap up. SCANDAL kind of shows my gooey side (cause, yeah, I do have one, and I love me an epilogue, so long as it doesn't make me fall into a diabetic coma).

    Jayne, have you read Quinn's batch of secondary epilogues? From what I hear, a lot of readers really seem to dig them (I'll admit to being a little disgruntled when told to spend more money to read the “end” of a book I already bought).

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  29. Darlynne
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 15:00:16

    … I also like them to do more than show off the almost inevitable baby.

    I agree with Kalen, probably because so many contemporary romances I’ve read lately contained what felt like an obligatory baby epilogue. The baby-as-metaphor for HEA is probably an entire other discussion, but if the relationship between the H/H was stormy throughout the book, I, personally, would like to see other examples in an epilogue of how they’re making it work. In real life–and I know the anti-real life is part of what we enjoy about romance–adding a baby to a relationship that has just started to work does not automatically guarantee a successful future. It almost seems as if the baby epilogue is shorthand for, see, they’ve worked out all their problems and are now blissfully happy with their [insert # here] children.

    My final vote: put it in the book.

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  30. SonomaLass
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 16:12:22

    Most epilogues in romance novels seem designed to prove that the h/h really get a HEA, not a HFN, ending. “See, see, they stayed together and had bebbehs!” I prefer feeling at the end of the story that I can trust this. That said, there are occasionally epilogues that give me new info, or just one last look at a delightful character, and it makes sense that if time has to pass, that needs to be an epilogue rather than just one last (anti-climactic) chapter.

    I have mixed feelings about the online access — I like the idea of making the epilogue “opt in” rather than “opt out,” because I can’t help reading it if it’s right there, even when I’m pretty sure it will ruin my end-of-a-good-story buzz with excessive sweetness and infants. But I sympathize with those who don’t have internet access or interest, too.

    I do have to say, though, that if the epilogue is a separate on-line feature, it should either be free or be VERY reasonably priced. I thought Julia Quinn’s “second epilogues” to the Bridgerton books were over-priced at $2.50 each. (If they are going to be developed short pieces worth paying more than a few cents for, why not collect them into a short story anthology instead?)

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  31. Chicklet
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 16:35:37

    I still don’t understand the need for the cloying OMG THEY TOTALLY LIVED HAPPILY FOR EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND HAD A BAJILLION BABIES AND WERE SO HAPPY YOU COULD JUST SCREAM epilogue. Why so overkill, publishers? If the author hasn’t sold me on the HEA by page 220, it’s not going to magically happen by heaping it on in pages 221-226. I’m a big girl; I can imagine the decades-long HEA in my own head if I need to.

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  32. TracyS
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 16:47:10

    I like the saccharine sweet epilogues. *shrug*

    Me too!

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  33. HelenKay Dimon
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 17:07:47

    As a general rule I think of epilogues as extra and unnecessary. Of course, I still read them because I’m nosy. But if the information is that important (like to wrap up the HEA), why isn’t it included in the regular chapters?

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  34. LDB
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 18:15:31

    I think of the epilogue as the reward for reading the book, if the author ends the book at the end of the major action there isn’t a chance to SEE the HEA, and it isn’t that I don’t believe it if I don’t see it, it’s that why did I read 300+ pages not to be able to see a little happiness for myself. And yeah maybe for some it’s overkill, but I’ve read books that just end and I’ve felt like that was nice but that’s it? And if it’s not in hte book I just don’t feel like it counts.

    Just and FYI, the book Heaven Texas has the epilogue on the SEP site, she cut it out of the book in editing or something and later decided to share with her fans.

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  35. Kaetrin
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 18:37:14

    I usually like epilogues. Some are necessary – for example in The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn. Others are called “epilogues” but are really the essential wrap up to the story so HAVE to be there – they could just as easily be another chapter. I don’t mind a bit of saccharine in my romances at the end. Sometimes the epilogues seem pointless – I prefer them to have something to say rather than just extend the HEA.

    I loved SEP’s Heaven Texas and was happy to read the epilogue on the website but, the book was better for it being left out I think. This was one where the epilogue didn’t really add to the story and the ending of the book as printed was punchier than if it was left in. Having said that, I was very happy to read it on the website.

    Julia Quinn’s second epilogues are great. They weren’t written at the same time as the book so there is no issue about missing out. They are extras which are about 30 pages – a little short story about where the characters are at a few years down the track. I believe she started doing these after repeated requests from readers.

    Thanks BevQB for the heads up about the epilogue to Fairyville. I’m off to get it now!

    I didn’t vote in the poll – I needed an extra option – depends on the book. LOL!

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  36. theo
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 18:42:09

    I’m with you, Kaetrin. I didn’t vote for that same reason. Sometimes, the epilogue is very satisfying, other times, it almost ruins my happy end-of-story haze.

    So yes. It all depends on the book.

    :D

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  37. Bev Stephans
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 20:12:23

    Shannon Stacey wrote a funny epilogue to “Taming Eliza Jane”! It’s not at all what you would expect.

    I say keep ‘em in the book.

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  38. MoJo
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 20:13:20

    Shannon Stacey wrote a funny epilogue to “Taming Eliza Jane”! It's not at all what you would expect.

    It took me 3 times reading that, going WTF?!?! before I got it and then I laughed my ass off. That was hilarious.

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  39. Jane
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 21:47:49

    I’m so sad that my awesome idea wasn’t met with universal approval, but it’s a good sign that I shouldn’t be running publishing. I’m glad we have the posts for the conversation though. Up next is another poll for you all to tell me that I’m whacked. Also, I do have problems coming up with poll questions (as you may have guessed by some of the ridiculous ones I’ve subjected you all to) so if you have any ideas, let me know.

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  40. loonigrrl
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 02:33:09

    Why, yes. You hated Deathly Hollows too?

    ;)

    And then it turns out to be something cloying like HP & the Deathly Hallows.

    *blushing* Am I the only one who kind of liked the Deathly Hallows epilogue? I cry every time I read it! Sure, it was totally saccharine, but I really needed the finality it gave us. Without it, I would have kept hoping for an eighth, ninth, tenth, etc.

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  41. Ann Somerville
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 05:25:20

    I wrote an epilogue to Interstitial two weeks after the story was released, and put it out for free – got a letter complaining about it not being in the original. I had to explain it didn’t exist when the story came out…

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  42. JulieLeto
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 14:32:33

    Loonigrrl, I loved it, too! After all the death and destruction, particularly at the end of Hallows, I desperately needed to know that everything turned out okay and that all those years later, life had returned to normal. I cry, too! Not as much as I do every time I read Dobby or Fred dying, but a nice sniffle.

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  43. Mara
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 19:34:07

    I wrote an epilogue to Interstitial two weeks after the story was released, and put it out for free – got a letter complaining about it not being in the original. I had to explain it didn't exist when the story came out…

    No one should complain about a free story–but having just downloaded and started Interstitial, myself, I think I can understand the impatience for a sequel. It’s a crisp, lively, involving read.

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  44. Ann Somerville
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 20:48:46

    Mara – thank you.

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  45. DS
    Sep 27, 2008 @ 11:10:47

    I solved my problem with romance epilogues. If it’s my book I tear them out and throw them away. I usually donate the books when I’m finished so I like to think that it solves the problem for the next reader also.

    I only do this if the epilogue doesn’t contain any new or interesting material. It’s my own statement about how much I hate useless epilogues. I have been doing this for years and it started with an Anne Stuart epilogue that totally ruined a book for me.

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