Thursday, October 25, 2007

Is Controversy Brewing for Jerry Seinfeld's Wife's New Book

There is currently some controversy going that Jessica Seinfeld's new book , "Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food" has similarities to Missy Chase Lapine's book "The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids Favorite Meals".

The following post is an except from the article "Jessica Seinfeld Cookbook's Originality is Being Questioned" written by Deirdre Donahue (USA TODAY)

Rival author says theme was hers first

Could Oprah Winfrey's televised blessing become an embarrassment for recipient Jessica Seinfeld?

After the wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld appeared on Winfrey's show on Oct. 8 to discuss her cookbook, "Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food," online message boards erupted with questions about the originality of the book's premise.

Winfrey praised "Deceptively Delicious" extravagantly. The cookbook explains how to slip healthy food into children without their knowledge. For example, add avocado to chocolate pudding or put chickpeas in chocolate-chip cookies. It suggests adding vegetable and fruit purees to food.

"Deceptively" zoomed up the best-seller lists. The $24.95 book is No. 2 on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list. More than 1.2 million copies are in print.

But when the "Oprah" show aired, postings at and noted that another cookbook advocates these same techniques and specific ingredients: "The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids Favorite Meals" by Missy Chase Lapine, former publisher of Eating Well magazine. Published in April by Running Press, the book has 150,000 copies in print.

"I'm surprised that on the 'Oprah' show this was being touted as an entirely new technique pioneered by Ms. Seinfeld," Lapine said Saturday.

Slipping in vitamins
The idea of stealth nutrition is not new, Lapin says. "My grandmother used to do it," she says, but her book is the product of five years of research. "My book is not just a concept. My book is a how-to manual."

Moreover, she adds, "I'm concerned and troubled that Oprah credited and applauded someone else for a technique that was out there six months earlier."

Winfrey was not available for comment.

Lapin says she and her publicists pitched the "Oprah" show five times without success. Twice she submitted her 139-page book proposal with 31 recipes and 11 purees to HarperCollins (Seinfeld's publisher) - once in February 2006 without an agent and again with an agent in May 2006.

"The one big fact is that they had access to my manuscript early on," Lapine says. Seinfeld's book was signed up in June 2006.

"There are at least 15 of my recipes that ended up in her book," Lapine says. However, she says, recipes are hard to protect: "If you change one ingredient, you're safe." She says that after her publisher contacted HarperCollins, "Deceptively's" cover was modified from the one on a promotional brochure. the word "simple" was inserted in place of "sneaky."

"Seinfeld is a big name, and it garners more attention than someone who doesn't have a big name," Lapine says. She and her publisher had no comment about possible legal action.

Jessica Seinfeld's Defense
Responding to the brouhaha, Seinfeld issued a statement: "My book came from years of trying to get my own children to eat healthy foods - my own trials and error in my own kitchen. The idea of pureeing vegetables has been around for decades. I have never seen or read this other book. I do hope it is successful and brings even more attention to child nutrition."

Seinfeld's publisher, Steve Ross, insists "she wasn't influenced by anyone else's ideas." Seinfeld cooks these dishes herself, he says. "I don't think money affects whether one cooks or doesn't cook."

Says Seinfeld's agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh: "We can never get enough of building up our celebrities and then tearing them down. but in this case they've chosen the wrong person, because Jessica Seinfeld is above reproach."

What's your opinion on this issue? Is this an issue of Plagiarism or great minds thinking a like?


Anonymous said...

Ms. Lapine is very fortunate to have been plagiarized because now she'll make so much more money from the media exposure....that's the logic of many folks, who don't even know Ms. Lapine. Yeh, she'll even be more happy when her greedy lawyers start deposing the Seinfeld's entire HarperCollins book prep team in 3-4 weeks to see who leaked Ms. Lapine's manuscript. You see, Ms. Lapine didn't use an agent when she first presented her manuscript to HarperCollins so the book staff could possibly have just said, " Heh, look here, a free manuscript to steal. Nobody will ever know."

Lifestyle Guru said...


I was wondering if Ms. Lapine used an agent. I also think when sending recipe book manuscripts you should just send them parts of the recipe to ensure the recipes will not be copied.

Lifestyle Guru said...

I forgot to add, make sure your work is copyrighted before you send anything off.

Lizzie said...

Fist off: I'm not pro either side here but as a published author I'd say Ms. Lapine is grossly naive to think that her ideas were the only ones out there. I mean take all the entertaining books out there, all the cook books, (the etiquette books for that matter!)there are going to be countless areas of repetition. What I think Ms. Lapine is learning, is that all of this really boils down to marketing. When you put out a book you're automatically an authority, an expert, a source. and unfortunately you're not the only source out there. Therefore any source with a better agent, better PR team, more google-able name, is going to have better press. Why would the Oprah show ask a no-name on when they could have Jerry Seinfeld's wife on. It sucks but that's how it works. We see it within our own company, why would someone want Lizzie Post, when Peggy Post who's had 13 years worth of name recognition, is available. Both of us are from the same company, I'm a direct descendant of Emily even, but Peggy's name has been out there longer. (should state here i love my aunt, and she's kept our business alive for years, no jealousy, just simple fact, i'm not as recognizable) Think of it from a PR p.o.v. Search: Senfield get millions of hits, search: Lapine-- well previous to this story breaking-- not too many hits i'm sure. If you were on the Oprah show and trying to make money and media and attention who would you go for? She might not be famous for her cooking but Jessica Seinfeld is famous by association. Simply put she has a leg up.
No one knows what happened at HarperCollins, no one knows if Jessica Seinfeld actually used the recipes in her book, frankly they sound gross to me but, the point still remains the same, both women are now getting press, and both women have published books. Unfortunately though, because one author has made a stink about it, the other is now being questioned and her book will always be questioned because of it. I feel for Ms. Lapine, it sucks to see your idea making money for someone else, (especially someone who's already wealthy)but that doesn't mean the idea was stolen.

Lifestyle Guru said...

Thank you for your comment Lizzie, it adds a lot.

I wish you continued success with your book and career.