Creating No One Likes a Fart with writer Zoe Foster Blake, and illustrator Adam Nickel

3 Jan 2019

Ever wondered what it takes to develop an illustrated children’s book? Or even thought as far as creating a scratch and sniff book? Lisa Riley, editor of No One Likes a Fart from Penguin Random House, shares with us her journey in creating such a book with author Zoe Foster Blake and illustrator, Adam Nickel. 


Working in children’s books you never know what might be involved on the journey from manuscript to book, but it’s so often surprising. I never guessed in publishing No One Likes a Fart that part of my job would involve finding the courage to test a dog poo scratch-and-sniff sample!

Author Zoe Foster Blake

Having previously backed and flagged with Zoe Foster Blake and her agent about her potential to be a kids book star, we were so thrilled to be shown Zoe Foster Blake’s hilarious manuscript for No One Likes a Fart on multiple submission from her agent, Tara Wynne at Curtis Brown in November 2016.

Zoe has published various highly successful novels and non-fiction books with our adult publishing department and is a much-treasured Penguin Random House author. We wanted to pull out all the stops to prove that the Penguin Random House Young Reader’s team was the very best place to publish her first adventure into the world of children’s books. So, meeting across all our divisions to bring everyone on board for this exciting new acquisition, we  put together a special pitch that showed Zoe:

  • our wonderful team of people that would be working with her
  • that we could meet her ideal publication timing to create a beautiful, full-colour picture book in time for Christmas 2017, gulp!
  • a selection of potential Australian illustrators for the project
  • our plans for publicity and marketing to launch this book and leverage her own profile and talents to best shout to the world “Here is Zoe Foster Blake’s fantastic first children’s book!”

We organized to meet with Zoe too to talk about her story, find out what other children’s books as a mother and keen book buyer she enjoyed and to see what illustrators appealed to her with her story, so we would have insights into creating the perfect book with her. We were so totally thrilled in the end when she chose to join us for her children’s book adventure.

Our in-house editorial team consisted of a publisher, editor and designer working as a close-knit team to ensure we could make the very best book to a very tight publication schedule with an off-shore printer. After meeting with the author to discuss initial editorial work on the manuscript our first priority was to find the right illustrator. We drew up a shortlist that we discussed with Zoe and then ultimately approached Adam Nickel. We asked him first for some character roughs and a sample spread, which we refined until everyone was happy and excited that we’d found our little Fart!

Illustrator Adam Nickel

In discussions with Adam, we looked at preferred formats for the book and drew up a detailed schedule for staggered delivery of rough sketches and final artwork in order to meet a tight delivery timeframe. We were in touch weekly to keep the priority of this project foremost in mind and to resolve any potential problems quickly. The story was refined editorially again once artwork began to arrive to achieve the perfect marriage of text and image. And artwork refinements were also made as we went. This process was done with sets of page layouts, which the designer prepared laying out text and pictures across the 32 pages of the book and were shared with both the author and illustrator.

Not quite pulled off. The scratch and sniff test patches for No One Likes a Fart.

For the all-important cover we chatted as a team with Zoe before starting work and then our designer mocked up some concepts using Adam’s artwork to agree the directions with both author and via our cover meeting process involving our sales and marketing departments. We wanted a cover that reflected Zoe’s own personal profile, playful and classy! It needed to look good both on the book and to promote at thumbnail size to the author’s large fan-base on social media.

It was part of our original plan to explore having something extra for the book especially given its fun subject matter. We were all keen to see if we could do a ‘scratch-and-sniff’ novelty. After extensive research by our production department both overseas and locally, in the end we just couldn’t find a smell that met our requirements for a decent fart smell, though we all sniffed many dubious pongs in the quest for the right one (the stinkiest options were onions and dog poo and yes, the whole team were enlisted to help test that one!).

Throughout the year long journey we gave the utmost care and thought at every step to creating a children’s book that would be fun to read aloud, with the right length of text for the age group and that as a finished object it would reflect its creator in being both smart and sassy, funny and insightful, so that even the endpapers would be able to visually reflect the book’s important message among the fart humour – about finding a friend who loves you just the way you are!

By Lisa Riley
Publisher, Penguin Young Readers who publishes many books for babies, children and young adults, but surprisingly in nearly 30 years in children’s publishing this was the first fart book she’s published.