I'm an academic by training but a worker drone by vocation. I recently hit upon an idea for a narrative nonfiction work that lies pretty far outside the purview of my academic specialty. I'd love to develop my idea into a book, and have set about researching my chosen topic with a degree of passion and energy that I thought had died when I left academia and was made to enter the Real World. I have a decent idea of how academic publishing works, but I don't believe the same rules apply to non-fiction for a general audience. Before I start writing the damn thing, I was curious about two claims I've seen circulated online:
It's a waste of time to write out your non-fiction manuscript before you've succeeded in drumming up a publisher's interest in the work, and
Non-fiction authors nearly always have some sort of relevant credentials pertaining to the subject they choose to write on.
Is this true? I'm a pretty good researcher and writer, if I say so myself, but I'm worried by the prospect that the work I eventually produce might be looked at dimmly by publishing houses if I can't show myself to to be an expert in the l subject I'm writing on. Also, I'd find the prospect of writing a polished sample chapter quite difficult – I'm the sort of person who needs to start at the beginning of a project and then hammer away at the writing I've recently produced until at last it appears legible. It would be difficult for me to produce a brilliant chapter without having the other chapters in front of me to reference, connect to adjoining arguments, or whatever. Am I just wasting my time by trying to produce a more or less complete manuscript when only a single chapter will be read, and is there really so little hope for people writing outside their area of expertise?
Thanks in advance for any advice you might care to share with me.