All I really want to do is publish my books in print and ebook, and sell them online. You wouldn't think this would be such a difficult thing to accomplish, but it gets complicated. Very complicated.
To write a novel, I use Word. It's an excellent program for passing a document around to my partner and my readers and back again. I usually use Excel for my outline, and keeping track of where I am in the manuscript while I write. In the final editing stage, I have to convert the manuscript to an html file, which involves using Notepad. Then I use Calibre to format it as an EPUB file and load it onto my nook. The brain processes the words differently on "paper" than it does on a back lit screen. Using the nook means saving a whole ream of paper on this step, and catching a lot of typos. (That's four programs and two devices, are you keeping track?)
For print publishing, I use CreateSpace. I like the quality of their product and their customer service. Once my book is "finished" and "ready to publish", I us Word to do considerable formatting of page size, margins, fonts, making sure everything is on the correct side (left or right page) and that it all looks good. Then I save all that formatting as a PDF. I download a cover template that's based on the size of the book and the number of pages, and use Photoshop to create the cover. When I'm finished making the cover, Createspace wants me to smush it all down to one layer and save it as a PDF file. (Now I'm up to five programs).
For ebook publishing, I like Smashwords because they will market to a large variety of stores for me. I am not fond of the way their "meat grinder" (seriously, that's what they call their ebook converter) does to a book for Kindle formatting. Also, although their royalties aren't bad, I can get better at Amazon and Barnes & Noble if I upload directly to their sites, and let Smashwords handle the other ebook stores and formats. All three places have different submission requirements, which means I have to format the book one way for Smashwords, a second way for Amazon, and a third way for Barnes & Noble. I also have to make three different-sized cover photos (of the same cover), one for each vendor. And at Amazon, I have to use an extra program, Mobipocket Creator, to get it formatted right. (I'm up to six programs, two devices, and five separate formattings.)
Finally, I want to give ebooks to those readers who consistently do a good job of helping me make significant and helpful changes, which means I'm re-formatting the manuscript as an html file, and putting it into Calibre again, to end up with formats readable on Nook, Kindle, and computers.
I've just spent the last two weeks learning how to move around in Photoshop without blowing anything up, and figuring out the easiest ways to make manuscripts into html files for Calibre. I don't think the time was wasted. I was shocked though, when I went to upload all the very nice ebooks and discovered I still needed to do a lot of formatting. I now have an Excel file that outlines each step for me, so I don't forget anything.
I still wouldn't trade away the freedom of being a self-published independent author!