If you’re working on a book, the first question most people will ask you when they find out is, “What’s it about?”
Do you have a good answer to that question? If not, you might have a problem.
Coming up with a good hook (or angle, or one-line description) isn’t easy, but it’s important. Movies are supposed to have good hooks too, but sometimes they can get away with “STARRING INSERT HUGE NAME HERE.” That doesn’t fly with a book, especially one that doesn’t have a massive marketing machine behind it.
To come up with a compelling one-line description, I suggest you brainstorm a handful—they don’t have to be polished or even grammatically correct at first—and then try them out on people you trust to be straight with you. This is important, because while many people like to help, not everyone is cut out to provide honest feedback. Do you have a friend who has no problem sending a meal back at a restaurant if it’s not cooked just right? That’s the kind of person you want for this job!
Even if your helpers haven’t read your book, you should be able to tell by their facial expressions if they find your description interesting. The initial options you come up with should be quite different, which will allow you to pick one that generates the best reaction. For example, should the one-liner be about a fire that devastates a community, or about something recovered from the fire that reveals a family secret? Those things could both be true about your story, but which one gets the best reaction from your test group?
After you’ve narrowed down the options to one or two key angles, play around with a handful of descriptions for each angle, then whittle the overall list down again. Keep repeating this process until you have a winner!