Do You Read Epilogues?

Do You Read Epilogues?

I had always assumed that all my readers would read an epilogue. Who doesn’t want a glimpse of the happily ever after?

Umm. Apparently, less than half of people who finish the book.

Thanks to a company called Jellybooks, which is based in London, we are discovering much more about how people read, and the results are surprising.

A New York Times article about the company explains how Jellybooks tracks reading behavior for specific publishers, who want to know whether certain books will be well received. Based on how many readers finish the books, publishers will decide whether to scale back on marketing or to spend even more than they planned. However, authors can also learn a few tips from the data. For example, looking at the charts in the New York Times article, it appears that a significant number of readers skip over front matter, including a preface, and go straight to chapter one. The same is true for the back matter, including an epilogue.

Because of this information, I changed the “Epilogue” in my last book into “Chapter 33–Eight Months Later” just in case.

I have my doubts about this study, however. Most of Jellybook’s readers signed up because they wanted to receive free e books. They may, therefore, read quite differently from someone who purchased a book.

I suspect that JAFF readers are more likely to read an epilogue, so please let me know: Do you read epilogues? If you don’t, I’d love to know why.


55 Responses to Do You Read Epilogues?

  1. I would never skip an Epilogue, it’s important to the events of the story, and I like a glimpse in HEA. The only thing I don’t like in epilogues is mentioning the death of ODC. I know, they would have to die one day, but I prefer to keep them in my mind as immortal. 🙂 They are, afer all. 😉

  2. Interesting post, Rebecca. I do read Epilogues, and I write them as well. In fact, in my latest book, I have two Epilogues due to the subject matter. I finish probably 98-99% of the fiction books I start, and I usually read all the way to the end: author’s notes and any other notes, bios, excerpts, etc. I also like Epilogues because they wrap things up and put a pretty bow on the book even if there are sequels later. Why anyone would skip them is beyond me unless they rarely finish a book. That’s why I’m particular about the books I start as well as try to be fair to the author and read the whole book. And Epilogues are the icing on the cake. I love them. 🙂

  3. I definitely read the epilogue of a story. It helps wrap it for me and gives me a glimpse of the future of the story and character. Why have an epilogue and not read it? It doesn’t make sense to me, but to each their own…

  4. These people can’t be real readers can they? How can you get a book and not read the introduction/preface/epilogue? I even read the book club notes and things if it is included. I have found that so much good information is included in these sections which make the story more enjoyable. It is usually background information that helps makes things clear but would kinda disrupt the flow of the story. And I like knowing that while the plot of the story has been nicely wrapped up having an epilogue that gives me a look into the future for the characters is a nice bonus. These so called “readers” are missing out!

  5. Not read the epilogue??? Who are these people??? I’d choke if I didn’t read the epilogue. My OCD would never allow me to skip an epilogue… I love them and look for them after every story. If there isn’t one… I will usually note it in my review. Just saying. I have noticed that when I get an eBook… it automatically opens to chapter 1. I have to backtrack if I want to see whatever was before it. Great post.

    • See…I know about you….bwahhh-hah-hah…that’s why I will sometimes do 2 Epilogues (and and Autghor’s note…and About the Author…and End Notes!)

    • On the e-book thing…I think that is a function of the bookmarks and hyperlinks the author inserts into the TOC. I am pretty certain that if an author actually bookmarked and hyperlinked “Cover” in the TOC…the book may open on the cover. Could be thoroughly wrong.

  6. Hi
    I always, always, always read the epilogue – and I start where the, usually, ebook starts. As StephanieL said I will usually glance over the family tree if there is one but book mark it to come back to as the characters develop their personalities and I come to know them.

    It doesn’t matter if it is Chapter 32, 18 years later, or Epilogue. I read to the end. I do enjoy a story that has at least some of the loose ends tied off. Leaving a few to flutter in the breeze brings me back for the next exciting instalment but too many unfinished story arcs, or total cliff hangers just make me mad.

    I often read on fan fiction sites – three or four of them – so I have probably 100 stories running around my head unfinished. I am incomplete! One day, hopefully, the stories will be finished. If I enjoyed them I will usually buy them when they’re published so I can read them in a single sitting rather than draw the story out over months, or sometimes years.

  7. I agree with the others – I always read the epilogue – I like to see how it all works out in the future following the completion of the current story.

  8. I read the entire book from the cover to the end! I am sometimes a bit disappointed if there isn’t an epilogue especially when I don’t want the book to end!

  9. I also read the epilogue. If I am going to read a story, I want to get the whole picture, and the epilogue is an important part of that!

  10. I ALWAYS read epilogues!! Why would you not? I love when there’s an extra bit at the end to let us know what happened to the people we’ve been journeying along with.

  11. That is really surprising as I can’t imagine not reading an epilogue. For books I like, I read everything I can – prologue, epilogue, outtakes, sequels, etc. And even for books I dislike that I decide not to finish, I still read the ending (including epilogue) because even if I didn’t like it, I still want to know how it ended.

  12. Of course I read the epilogue, I’m invested in each story and don’t want it to end,so the epilogue give me a glimpse of how the story goes on.

  13. I read it all. Well, except family trees. I skip those until I’ve read some of the book because it just confuses my poor little brain if I haven’t “met” everyone yet. I read prologues and epilogues and previews and addenda and appendices…all of it because it goes with the book and the author spent the time to write it and include it. It just seems asinine to me that you would take the time to read a book and then NOT read the epilogue. Just seems ridiculous. Of course, that’s just me.

  14. I read everything an author has taken the time and energy to insert into a book. But, I am a lousy audience since I spend five minutes agonizing over a sentence as I write.

    Having been a writer for 45 years…and a writing teacher for 15…I read everything…from the copyright page to the last end note. I have stood in front of the class holding a book over my head asking the class what is copyrighted in the book. The answer is…everything…from the words and ideas to the type face and the design and layout.

    We have ended up in a content driven society over the last 15 years (Chapters 1 to 31). Yet, the entire package is part of the creative process. I have spent time have tried to figure out the correct attribution for the cover art–because that is part of my book. The right wording for the credit for the artists who designed the cover? How about the wording of the dedication? Then there is the Prologue. Oh…finally we get to the content. Then–and here is what I do…DO NOT PUT “THE END” before the Epilogue. You end up signalling readers that it is OK to stop.

    Now, this may be a function of the soft-copy, e-book mentality. I would wonder if readers of analog (paper) books respond in a similar manner.

    In my books, that means they would not read the Epilogue. The Afterward. About the Author.

    So…1) Do not put “The End” until the last punctuation in the narrative. 2) Do not specifically call it “Epilogue” (or at least as I did in “Maid and Footman”–Epilogue 1 and 2)…I end up with “Book Five” since I divide my longer works into “Books”.

    Otherwise we may walk into the Chicago Art Institute and look up at that remarkable Georgia O’Keefe hanging over the stairwell…pause for a minute…and then keep walking saying to our companion “Nice clouds.”

    • Well, Don, you are thorough if you read the copyright page! You made some great points. I hadn’t ever thought about us being in a content driven society, but you are right. I am also a huge fan of Georgia O’Keefe.

      • RJ…I approach writing in a holistic fashion. The entire package (which is why I purchase hard copies of favorite books) should have been put together to create an immersive reading experience.

        Have you ever opened a really “nice” book and rubbed your hand on the page to feel the paper? I like a cream tone with a really hard (they use clay to create that sense on paper) finish. Or have you searched out the typeface attribution on the copyright page? I tend to favor Cambria, but Garamond is another really readable face.

        The problem with publishing straight through using KDP or Createspace (my mechanisms) is that you are limited on type imaging. Since I put quotes from Ms Austen and inner thoughts of my characters in italics, when I published the first edition of The Keeper I used “Apple Chancery” for the script of letters to allow the readers to differentiate…in other words, rather the having to write “Dear Rebecca” atop a letter, I could use the type to key the reader. But, Jeff Bezos says “No.”

        Anyway….all of the elements are part of the package. As readers we should try to appreciate the effort (I guess also ‘lack of effort’) put into the final product. We must, as consumers, hold those who are asking for our money accountable. Dang…there I go making the argument for professional publishers.

        PS: Note my profile pic…it is of the church in Taos…photographed by Ansel Adams and painted by Ms O’Keefe. Did a NEH workshop on O’Keefe and New Mexico several years ago.

  15. I always read the preface as well as the epilogue and love when epilogues are included because I enjoy seeing how the characters are doing in that books world after the book has ended. I sometimes will check the end of a book (being careful not to read anything) to see if an epilogue is included if a table of contents is not at the front of the book.

  16. I agree – I always read the epilogue, assuming I read the whole book, which I almost always do 🙂

  17. Why wouldn’t I read the epilogue? It is just the last chapter of the story with a fancy name. Granted, I have noticed some authors use it more to introduce the next story in the series than to make it about the story just finished, but, either way, if I enjoyed the story I want to see it continue. For those who don’t read it? Each to their own, I guess.

    • Thanks for commenting, Linda. Those tricky authors, trying to pull us into the next story with their epilogues! I haven’t noticed that, but I don’t read very many series.

  18. I always read the epilogue. And prologue. And usually any author’s notes. And dedications. And, well, you get the idea.

  19. I always read the epilogue to see where life has taken the people in the novel. 99% of the time, the endings are all so pleasant and it gives us a look as to what their future was going to be. I love the epilogue and always read it after I have completed the novel. I love happy endings.

  20. I read epilogues and prologues and preludes and cereal boxes……but then I”m a bit of an addict lol

  21. I always read epilogues. And prefaces. I even read the TOC. I wouldn’t put too much stock in anything you read in NYTimes; they are the reigning champion of fake news. There’s a reason why they are hemorrhaging readership, and income, at a rapid pace: their “all the news that’s fit to print” is simply a joke at this point I do admit that I don’t always read the free excerpts of upcoming works at the end — my Must-Read list is so lengthy that I prefer to start another book (ebook or print) as soon as I finish each one. I don’t know about anyone else, but I sure would not want to be spied on while I’m reading — not even in exchange for free books.

    • Hmm. That’s an interesting point about NYTimes. The article wasn’t actually about epilogues. It was just something my author community found in one of their graphics. I wish I could find more information about it, but I think you all are confirming my suspicions that almost everyone reads epilogues.

  22. I. Always read the epilogue as well as the prologue. There are usually little nuggets of information which often can clarify certain plotlines, if you will. Not reading the prologue and epilogue makes it feel like an incomplete book, in my opinion.

    • Too funny! You are the reader I imagine in my mind when I write, the kind that wants 2 epilogues. After I published my first book, I had several readers contact me to find out what happened after the book ended, and it had an epilogue!

  23. If I get as far as the epilogue, I read it. With the ability to read samples, I often start a book that I never read or buy. Sometimes I don’t even finish the sample. But the epilogue is fun. It is usually the satisfying section where I can enjoy the characters’ well-earned happiness.

    • Thanks for commenting, Renata. Samples are a great thing, aren’t they? It’s amazing how much e-books have changed the way we read. Of course, I do the same thing at the library–reading the first chapter to see if I’ll like the book.

  24. I absolutely do read epilogues: most JAFF books have characters or events that capture my imagination so much that reading a closing statement can make the book for me. In the few instances where I have struggled with the book I look to the epilogue to see if I missed something essential to the story. I recall one book that I really disliked. I skipped ahead to the epilogue and found that I was both correct and incorrect in my understanding; I never would have gotten the total reading experience if I didn’t read the epilogue.

    • Thanks for commenting, Katherine. I also skip to the end sometimes to help me understand the plot better. My husband thinks I’m terrible to do that, but it doesn’t ruin it for me.

  25. Not read an epilogue? Are they mad? I always always read the epilogue simply because I like to know what happens. In fact I would sometimes like an extra epilogue if the one in the book doesn’t give enough info.
    (and that goes even if I received the book FOC)
    So, please continue with writing them Rebecca ?

    • I will always write them, but I may continue to just call them chapter whatever. I think though, that you all are confirming my suspicions that most of my readers would read something called “epilogue.”

  26. I always read the epilogue! That contains some of the most interesting parts of the story. Icing on the cake, if you will!

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