I am going to put my head on the block here and say that I like epilogues. I am a sucker for a novel that has a real ending, with loose ends tied up (cleverly) and a satisfying conclusion by the author. Sometimes I don't want to have to guess what happens next. It is sometimes too painful to have to close the book and not know la suite. I have lost count of the number of times that I have been utterly frustrated to read a book that ends on a big pause, an invitation to the reader to imagine how things are concluded or how the story continues.
I bring this up because I have had conversations recently with book-loving people who say there seems to be a trend nowadays towards open-ended novels. Apparently, it is seen as contrived by some to have a story wrapped up for the reader. Is it really something agents and publishers are now demanding? Who decided that this was now the best way to end novels? The endings of some long novels have often left me with the feeling that the author didn't have the guts to make a decision about the conclusion. Is it also because there is less risk with an open-ending? Something neutral, which upsets no one, makes more commercial sense?
I have an epilogue in the novel I am trying to sell, which comes in the form of a letter, making it clear what our main characters go on to after the final scene. I felt it was important to let the reader know how things turned out. I wrote it as I would like to read it. I've tried to make it subtle, which is why it comes in the form of a letter. However, having already had one agent in the past voice doubts about whether it is necessary, I am in two minds. I am going with it because I believe it works, but I am not completely confident about it. Of course, I would be more decisive if I already had a publishing deal, or if I was already an "established" author.
I certainly hope that an agent or publisher who reads the manuscript is not going to reject the novel because of the epilogue. I almost wanted to type the word "optional" underneath the word epilogue. But I decided it wouldn't look good to come across as indecisive. It goes without saying that I will let you know how I get on ... or maybe I want! Maybe I'll just leave you hanging! Did he or did he not get the publishing deal in the end?