Stelter Sells! Times’ Svelte Twitter Svengali Tumbles into the World of Books

Stelter! Look at you! Writing books!

New York Times television writer Brian Stelter announced earlier today, via Twitter, that he’s parlayed his social media presence and budding silver screen stardom into a book deal. The Top of the Morning, a history of AM talk shows, will be published by Grand Central Publishing in 2013.

That is, if he figures out how to do the damn thing.

“I don’t know how to write a book,” Brian Stelter told The Observer this morning. “I know how to write a Tumblr.”

At least he can do the latter! He’s already posted eight times to the Tumblr site devoted to the book. And he’s solicited advice on his personal Tumblr, crowdsourcing the book’s conceits before he begins its prose. Perhaps he can just do that: take the accumulation of these Tumblr posts, and make them a book.

Kate Lee, the blogger-friendly agent at ICM who sold Morning on Mr. Stelter’s behalf, declined to comment on the size of the advance Mr. Stelter netted.

It’s something that’s been in the works for a while. The idea came up in a meeting with Grand Central, where the publisher and writer decided that no book had adequetly taken on “the surrogate families that we invite into our homes each morning,” as Grand Central told Publishers Weekly. The book will be a reported narrative, and Mr. Stelter has already reached out to networks to let them know of his book and ask for cooperation.

And they liked it!

“I got some surprisingly positive responses,” he told The Observer.

He added that networks were interested in the prospect of having their morning show stories told by Mr. Stelter in more than newspaper-filing length pieces. In order for the story to work, he said, “It has to be epic in scope.”

“The idea behind it was, after 9/11, morning television became the axis upon which the rest of the TV world turned,” he said. “I think that remains true to this day.”

Yes, Mr. Stelter’s seemingly done it all, but even with his hyperactive Twitter — just try to at-reply him without getting a response back — he’s never written anything resembling a book.

Hailed as a prodigy from his first byline, the announcement is just the latest step in Mr. Stelter’s New York success story. The Times scooped him up in 2007, at age 21, straight out of Towson University. His GPA was just 3.5, but his web site, TVNewser, had hits into the millions and a partnership with Mediabistro. He was the youngest person slaving away for the Gray Lady. Mr. Stelter has since shut up the skeptics by amassing a Twitter following 60,000 strong, and then using it to lose 90 pounds. You can see him in a prominent role in the documentary Page One, and he’s currently dating the gorgeous and glowing CNBC anchor Nicole Lapin (Page Six reported them as an item, and it’s now Facebook-official).

As for how his precocity affects the development of this long-form technique, Mr. Stelter said that finding his footing is tasking, and exciting.

“It’s a challenge much in the same way coming to the New York Times was a challenge.”

When asked if he would be taking time off from his stead at the Times media desk to write, Mr. Stelter, speaking to The Observer by phone this morning, was uncertain.

“To be determined,” he said. “I haven’t asked for a book leave, but you can imagine how hard it’d be to take time off from this job.” |

Stelter Sells! Times’ Svelte Twitter Svengali Tumbles into the World of Books