Jerry Seinfeld’s wife’s claim that she never saw the cookbook she’s accused of plagiarizing rings hollow against market-research practices in the book-publishing industry, analysts say.

The author of “The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals” charges that Jessica Seinfeld stole the theme of her book and at least 15 recipes when she wrote a remarkably similar book, “Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food,” that appeared several months later.

“I have never seen or read this other book,” Seinfeld said.

Her husband, comedian Jerry Seinfeld, Monday defended his wife in an appearance on CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman.”

“My wife never saw the book, read the book, used the book,” he insisted.

But publishing analysts point out that book agents scour the market before a book is formally proposed to rule out competing titles. And book editors and publishing boards conduct even more stringent market research before offering writers a contract.

“There’s no way they missed ‘Sneaky Chef,'” said a senior editor with a major New York publishing house, who wished to remain anonymous.

In fact, Seinfeld’s publisher HarperCollins had access to the original manuscript of “Sneaky Chef” almost six months before signing her to a contract. Its author, Missy Chase Lapine, submitted her 139-page book proposal with 31 recipes and 11 purees twice to HarperCollins – once in February 2006 without an agent and again with an agent in May 2006.

HarperCollins signed Seinfeld one month later, in June 2006.

Lapine says that after her publisher, Running Press, contacted HarperCollins, the cover of “Deceptively Delicious” was changed from the one featured in a promotional brochure. In the title, the word “sneaky” was replaced with “simple.”

Jerry Seinfeld called Lapine, former publisher of “Eating Well” magazine, a “wacko.”

The comic’s wife’s cookbook has climbed to the top of the New York Times and Amazon bestsellers lists thanks in large part to an Oct. 8 appearance on the “Oprah” show. Lapine says she and her publicists pitched Oprah’s producers five times without success.

Host Oprah Winfrey and the Seinfelds are close, and she has a role in Jerry Seinfeld’s new animated film, “Bee Movie.”

Also, Jessica Seinfeld reportedly gave Winfrey 21 pairs of rare designer shoes valued at some $20,000.

During the World Series last week, Jerry Seinfeld appeared in a Hewlett Packard TV spot promoting the HP notebook in which he plugs not only his movie but also his wife’s book. Thumbing through a digital image of “Deceptively Delicious,” he remarks, “My wife wrote a cookbook. She is a genius!”

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